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Do I really need a VPN?

Recently, I often notice some scams e-mail on my spam box.That scam e-mail is claiming that they know my old password I’ve used several years ago. In fact, I never used that password anymore ever since I’ve used a password manager. Do I really need a VPN?

Which can be the same question for everyone like me, including you.

Let’s find this out, based on my research, exploration, and a bit of… contemplation:

VPN won’t secure your data on the other end.

My background is a full stack web developer, but more focused on the back-end so I know a little bit about the networks.

Besides, I also studied computer science, where there are some lessons about VPN.

Let’s take a look at the picture from Namecheap below:

Do I really need a VPN? - Here’s how it works

From the picture above, you’ll know that VPN works as its name: “Virtual  Private Network “.

It works by making your way to the internet a  private  one so no one else can take a look at what you sent or what you received  on the way .

Do remember it:  on the way .

That means if the other end (the server of the site you visited) had been breached, hacked, and their data is exposed, there’s still a risk that your data saved there will be exposed too.

My example case

This looks like my own case where I finally found out how the old password that I’ve never used anymore, get exposed to scammers.

Using my password manager service, I know that some old sites I’ve registered had been hacked and their data was breached around 2013 until 2015.

Even if I used VPN at that time to register on those hacked sites, my old password will still be exposed to those scammers because it simply had nothing to do with how VPN works.

Luckily, I never used that exposed old password.

But imagine if another person is on my position, and they used the same password for all of their online accounts, including their bank account. It can get much  worse .

That is, if you’re looking for data security saved on the other end, you don’t need a VPN.

You need a secure, complicated, long, and different password on each of your online accounts, e-mails, bank account, etc.

And I bet, just like me, you won’t be able to handle such hurdles to remember all of those passwords.

This is where the password manager came in.

But put some grains and salt to my advice above. Don’t rely on completely on the password manager. Think creatively, use your own strategy, combined it with your password manager usage.

VPN gave you privacy. Really?

Yes, third parties including your ISP won’t be able to sniff on which sites you’re visiting, what apps you’re using, what server you accessed, or what’s your real IP address, and location.

But… your ISP will still know that you’re using a VPN.

And the other end, those sites you visited, the server you accessed will still know too, that you’re using VPN.

It’s true that some of the VPN providers kept their  **no-logs-kept policy ** but the others did not.

In case the authority felt they need to do the investigation, they will still able to ask your VPN provider for your data — that is, if your VPN kept their no-logs-kept policy, you’re likely to be safe.

However, do remember this: there’s always a trace on the networks .

More hurdles to access some sites

If you’re a freelancer who’s using upWork, do keep in mind that some of your fellow freelancers had their accounts locked because of the IP address inconsistency.

Source of the image:  https://community.upwork.com/t5/Freelancers/Can-I-use-VPN/m-p/398141/highlight/true#M242863

You can do more on Google and just search for: Can I use VPN for upWork.

There are many other discussions on their community forum.

Although upWork did not clearly say they’ll lock out your account, the fact that some of your fellow freelancers are going through those hurdles, it may not be worth to pay VPN if you’re freelancing with upWork service.

Hassles to access PayPal.

Another example of the site that’s likely freezing your account is PayPal.

When I was visiting HongKong for vacation, and I am trying to access my own PayPal account, suddenly PayPal is blocking me.

They’re asking me to enter the codes they sent through SMS on my phone.

Luckily at that time, I don’t activate my phone’s provider roaming service and I can’t access my PayPal account until I got back home and unlock it.

There’s likely that more and more major sites will apply such security precaution when you’re accessing your account with them, from different IP address — which will happen when you’re using VPN.

VPN providers still have a chance to see your data

Even if they kept their no-logs policy, their staff still had a chance to see your online activity before the logs are removed.

However, it’s true that at some points, VPN gave you better privacy compared to those who’re not using VPN.

Just make sure you had fully trusted your VPN provider, and make sure they are worth your trust.

So, do you really need a VPN?

Let’s summarize them.

Security for your data on the way. Yes. This is especially when you often get online on a public wifi network in the public areas.

Security for your data on the other end

.

Not really. As explained above. It won’t protect your data on the other end if this other end is hacked. Use the password manager instead of a VPN for this.

Privacy

.

Yes. Just make sure your VPN providers are worth your trust.

Hurdles on accessing the major sites

.

Yes, VPN will make you go through those hurdles. In fact, this is my number one consideration that holds me to buy a service from privateinternetaccess.com. There’s a workaround for this by turning the VPN on and off but I am not sure if I won’t forget to turn it off when I opened up my PayPal account.

Accessing the local content that’s available to certain countries

.

For example, if you’re living in Europe but want to access some of Netflix shows that’s only available in the United States. Then, the VPN that provided the server in States and allows you to access Netflix, will be the best one for you.

Unblocking the access to a site.

 

Some countries restricted or even banned completely some major sites like Google, Facebook, or Reddit. If it happened that you’re living in those countries, VPN will help you. But a decent free proxy will also help you out with this.

Easy to access internal network

Accessing the internal network of the company you’re working on when you’re out of office.  This most likely happened to those who choose to work remotely.

This most likely happened to those who choose to work remotely.

Blocking ads on the game you played on your phone

.

Since ad-block can’t help you to block those annoying ads when you’re playing the game on your phone, VPN is your way to go. Just make sure with the VPN provider that they are really able to block those ads.

Conclusion

There is no one conclusion that works for all the people. You need to look into your own situation after reading those explanations above and decide it yourself.

The best practice, even if you decide to buy a VPN, is to buy the monthly plan first (even if it’s more expensive)

That is, if you were satisfied with your first months, you can easily upgrade to yearly plans to get cheaper costs for each month.

Or if you did not, just halted your subscription for the next month and look for another VPN provider.

Further Reading

My fastest VPN on Digital Ocean

Since the COVID19 outbreak in this world, both VPN providers I used to pay are getting slower. I often get disconnected. Even worse, connecting again usually takes forever. Contacting their support doesn’t help. More people are going to use their service to…  Read more » My fastest VPN on Digital Ocean

How to get DigitalOcean $100 credit for free?

These are the steps on how to get DigitalOcean $100 credit for free. Be mindful the $100 credit you’ll get will expire in 60 days if you don’t use it.

Problems that forced me to leave ProtonVPN for Mullvad

This purely based on my own experience with both VPN apps. Others may find it different because there are so many factors involved. Please keep in mind that Mullvad doesn’t have an affiliate program at the time I write this.…  Read more » Problems that forced me to leave ProtonVPN for Mullvad

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